[atp-news] [tribal-India] Left Without Right

Petra Bursee (Adivasi-Tee-Projekt) petra.bursee at adivasi-tee-projekt.org
Mit Jul 14 14:22:18 CEST 2004

liebe ATPlerInnen,
hier über die AKD ein indischer Kommentar zu "Entwicklungsprojekten" (Bergbau, Dämme) in Adivasi-Gebieten.
Liebe Grüße, Petra

Please share further to all yours Networks
Knderson Pamei
CORE Centre for Organisation Research & Education
(Indigenous Peoples' Centre for Policy and Human Rights in India's North East)
CORE North Eastern Region
Lane 3 Basisthapur Beltola
Guwahati 781028
Assam India
Tel/ Fax +91 361 2228709/2228730
Email: core_ne at coremanipur.org 

The Assam Tribune


Guwahati, Saturday, July 10, 2004

Left without Right

Ajit Patowary


The three-day recent NE regional conclave of the tribal and indigenous people's organisations at Akajan, Dhemaji from June 1, demanded 'complete moratorium' on all plans and processes pertaining to mining of uranium in Domiasiat in West Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya or other parts of the region. The conclave in its resolution on the issue said: ".no such project should be planned or implemented without free and prior informed consent of the concerned communities and peoples of the region."


Why? It said that based on the evidence of existing damage to the people, culture, economy, land, water and air and on the testimonies from peoples all over the globe, who suffer daily from uranium mining and radioactive waste, it had to oppose unequivocally all attempts at any such mining.


Though the conclave, called the North Eastern Regional Assembly of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Organisations with Allies, did not come out with a resolution on mega-dams proposed for harnessing the hydel potential of the region, it was clear in its approach that it in the days to come would take a similar stand on the dams too. This has been made clear by the representations the participating organisations of the conclave made at Aalo in Arunachal Pradesh on the National Hydro-electric Power Corporation's (NHPC) proposed Siang Middle HE project on June 9.


To make the situation clear let us refer to a resolution of the Second International Meeting of Dam-affected People and their Allies held at Rasi Salai, Thailand, in early December last year. The resolution adopted by the delegates of 62 countries in the meeting stated, among others: "We are deeply concerned that the Prime Minister of India launched a '2012 Power for All' Mission in May 2003, which identifies India's North Eastern Region as the richer storehouse for achieving the national power production target. This mission envisioris national electrification for which the North Eastern Region will be required to generate 60 per cent of the total power production in India through 45 mega hydropower projects. The Prime Minister's office seems to be bypassig statutory guidelines and overlooking social and environmental concerns." It perhaps needs no mention that delegates of some organisations >from NE region were present in the meeting.


Domiasiat and Siang Middle HE project are only two examples of the development projects stirring the 'NE tribals' minds. Several other development projects are there which were or are resented by the tribals of the region. The 1500 MW Tipaimukh Dam Project in Manipur has also been opposed by the people of Manipur and The Committee Against Tipaimukh Dam (CATD) has been spearheading a movement against the dam over the Barak River in Manipur.


The general approach of the tribals toward the development projects is usually tried to be described by the people at the helm of affairs as retrogressive and very often these people are sough to be painted as 'primitive' by a section of the country's intelligentsia. But this is an approach, which does more wrong to the cause of development by pitting the peoples against each other on ethnic lines.


Why? Let us take the following lines from the memorandum submitted to the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee by the CATD on September 19, 2003. The lines read: ".we are not at all against the development works being undertaken in the NE region by the Government of India or State Governments. However, it has become absolutely necessary to bring out earnest appeal to your kind notice and to seek the help of your good offices to intervene the construction of the controversial Tipaimukh High Dam, particularly with a view of safeguarding the hill tribal people of their land, belief, culture, history and flora and fauna, sacred places of religious and historical importance."


The dam would seriously affect the rights of living of the tribal people and would create untold misery, would affect the tribal belief, culture and history of the tribal of the area and its location would be the Tousem seismic zone, the memorandum said. The dam being constructed at he confluence point of the Barak (Ahu) and Tuivai rivers would submerge an area of 275.5 sq km permanently and would hence affect the right of living of the people of the area. The Barak waterfalls and the Zeihlak Lakes, a cluster of five plateau lakes, are the most sacred places of the people of Manipur. These places are the abodes of deities with whom the people of the State are emotionally associated, the memorandum stated. Moreover, the epicentres of the NE EARTHQUAKES IN 2003 WERE LOCATED IN Tousem of Tamenglong district. The construction of the dam would hence spell disaster for the people by inviting recurrence of the 1950-like situation, the memorandum said. It also reminded Vajpayee of the constitutional obligations of the minorities and the tribal of the country.  


A similar development concerning the Pagladiya Dam is there in Assam. While the people living in the lower reaches of the river are eagerly awaiting the dam to complete, the people, mostly tribals, living in its upper reaches are opposing the dam for reasons similar to the ones advocated by the people of Manipur.


The case of Domiasiat perhaps needs a little elaboration. According to Dino Dean Gracious (Dympep), secretary general of the Meghalaya People's Human Council (MPHRC), the Uranium Corporation of India Ltd's (UCIL) exploring of about 646 tones of uranium ores from the Domiasiat uranium reserve resulted in some peculiar diseases among the people of Domiasiat and in its vicinity around 1989.  this led to a popular movement initiated by Hopingstone Lyngdoh, presently an MLA in Meghalaya State Assembly and later, the MPHRC and the Khasi Student Union (KSU) assumed the leadership of the movement.


The MPHRC is strengthening the campaign not only in Meghalya but also at regional and national levels. One of the tasks it has proposed is to have an open debate between the groups of scientists for and against uranium mining at a national level, Dino said. As the grade of the Domiasiat uranium is very high, it is feared that radiation from the uranium fields of Domiasait will lead to a major disaster once uranium mining is stated there. UCIL has proposed only open cast mining In Domiasiat areas. In the long run, it is feared that the entire West Khasi Hills and even Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya in East Khasi Hills will be facing the problems from radiation, siad the MPHRC secretary general.


Domiasiat proper doesn't have even 300 families, but, its neighboring areas like Mawkywat, Nongstoin, Mawthengkut, to name a few are densely populated. The State Government, which is keen to see the expeditious implementation of the mining Programme for its expectation of a hefty sum as royalty, is tight-lipped over the project operation plan and the environmental assessment report, the post-mining development policy, that is, on mining lease, rehabilitation and other plans and policies. So is the UCIL.


These issues are agitating the minds of the conscious people in Meghalaya and the restlessness is growing also because of the fact that the UCIL has not cared to rehabilitate the displaced people in one of its projects in Jharkhand only recently. An UCIL bid in Andra Pradesh was also foiled last year by people's resistance movement. The position of the UCIL has also become intriguing because of its silence over the issues raised by the people of Meghalaya and also because of the State Government and the UCIL making attempts at causing a rift among the people involved I the resistance movement, said Dino. 


The delegates attending the Akajan conclave were of the opinion that the laws of the country were colonial in nature and those did not recognize the indigenous people's right over their land. The need of the hour is to make amendment to these laws so as to make these peoples enjoy their legitimate right over their land and also to make them party to all decisions at all levels in matters of projects proposed in their areas.

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